Strike That, Reverse It

President Trump described a missile attack on the Syrian airbase from which a chemical attack was recently launched, as being in the United States’ “vital national security interest.” A spokesperson for Putin called the limited strikes “violations of the norms of international law, and under a far-fetched pretext.” And Assad called the move an “unjust and arrogant aggression.” From WaPo: U.S. strikes Syrian military airfield in first direct assault on Bashar al-Assad’s government.

+ Emergency talks at the UN get heated.

+ Syria is perhaps the most complicated crisis in the world. And President Trump’s actions, while praised by many in the US and abroad, further complicate our ability to understand his worldview. Frank Bruni on the riddle of Trump’s Syria attack: “President Obama had advisers who wished he’d done something similar, and there were Democrats aplenty — Hillary Clinton apparently among them — who found his restraint when it came to Syria and the regime of Bashar al-Assad to be infuriating, a surrender of America’s role and moral authority in the world. But Trump’s military action makes little sense in the context of most of what he said in the years before he was elected and much of what he has done as president so far.”

+ Trump’s dramatic policy reversal was driven in part by the images he saw on television. “Even beautiful babies were cruelly murdered in this very barbaric attack. No child of God should ever suffer such horror.” Of course, beautiful, innocent babies are among the Syrian refugees Trump has demonized for years. And “more than 55,000 children have been killed in the Syrian war, mostly by the Assad regime.”

+ How dramatic is this policy shift? Here’s candidate Trump: “You’re going to end up in World War Three over Syria if we listen to Hillary Clinton. You’re not fighting Syria any more, you’re fighting Syria, Russia and Iran, all right?” David Frum on seven lessons from Trump’s Syria strike.

+ Jeffrey Goldberg: The Obama Doctrine, R.I.P. (It’s pretty clear it would have suffered the same fate under a Clinton administration.)

+ The big question: Will these strikes matter? The NYT’s Max Fisher with a very interesting overview: “The end result may not be so different from the Obama administration’s decision, in 2013, to stand down from similar strikes — a message that Mr. Assad faces relatively low costs for using chemical weapons, costs he could now deem acceptable.”

+ Meanwhile, Syrian jets just took off from air base U.S. missiles struck.

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